Saddam was just a ‘neighborhood bully,’ Netanyahu says– 13 years after saying Saddam threatened ‘security of our entire world’

Saddam Hussein, late dictator of Iraq

There was a standing ovation for Benjamin Netanyahu at the American Enterprise Institute last night! Then he had a dialogue with Danielle Pletka in which he completely contradicted his testimony to the US Congress in 2002 on Saddam Hussein’s threat to the world.

A leader has to “make deals with secular dictatorships,” Netanyahu told Pletka.

Mind you, Saddam was horrible, horrible. Brutal killer. So was Qaddafi. There’s no question about that. I had my own dealings with each of them. But I do want to say that they were in many ways, neighborhood bullies. That is, they tormented their immediate environment. But they were not wedded to a larger goal. The militant Islamists–either Iran leading the militant Shi’ites with their proxies Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and Hamas… Or the militant Sunnis led by ISIS… they have a larger goal in mind… Their goal is not the conquest of the Middle East. It’s the conquest of the world. It’s unbelievable, people don’t believe that.

He said the desire to restore a Caliphate or an “imamate” — “that is exactly what is guiding” both ISIS and Iran. And:

chemical weapons in the case of ISIS, nuclear weapons in the case of Iran– that represents a formidable threat to our world.

Hold on a second. Thirteen years ago in testimony to Congress, Netanyahu said that Saddam did represent a threat to the entire world.  Excerpts (thanks to Jim Lobe at lobelog):

I think the first question is, do you want to merely avenge September 11th or do you want to win the war on terror? If you want to stop with September 11th, go after al Qaeda.

…[But t]here is no international terrorism of any kind — al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, you name them, all of them — there is no international terrorism if you take away the support of sovereign states. And the sovereign states are few. If you want to win this war, you just have to neutralize these states. In neutralizing them, you have two options. It’s like when kamikaze fighters are coming at you and bombing you. You can shoot one; you can shoot the other. But if you really want to stop it, you have to shoot down the aircraft carriers. There are only a handful of aircraft carriers. …So, I think if you want to win the broader war on terror, you have to get rid of these regimes.

In fact, Netanyahu said the very same thing about Saddam Hussein that he now says about Iran. Emphasis mine:

And today the United States must destroy the same regime because a nuclear-armed Saddam will place the security of our entire world at risk. And make no mistake about it — if and once Saddam has nuclear weapons, it is only a matter of time before those weapons will be used.

On Saddam’s presumed nuclear program– a lot like what he says about Iran:

“Two decades ago, it was possible to thwart Saddam’s nuclear ambitions by bombing a single installation. But today, nothing less than dismantling his regime will do, because Saddam’s nuclear program has fundamentally changed in those two decades. He no longer needs one large reactor to produce the deadly material necessary for atomic bombs. He can produce it in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country.”

BTW, the United States followed his advice a few months later, and invaded Iraq